Tuesday

Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow

 February 28, 2012
Again with the kaleidoscope eyes!
 http://heathersnowbooks.com/

For those of you who don't know me, when I read a book I take notes, which is all well and good.  However, if I'm reading a paper book, I tend to take notes on what ever happens to be close by - post-it notes, an envelope, a bill, a Kleenex, napkin, anything handy.  Well, sometimes these little notes get lost, which is what happened with this book.  (An advantage with the Nook, one does not loose the notes.)  Anyway, I found myself jotting down the variety of eye and hair colors that both our hero and heroine had.  However, I lost the notes, so from memory: violet, amethyst, purple, and lavender eyes for her, cobalt blue for him (I think), amber, red, copper hair for her.  I don't remember his hair changing colors.  Now, this didn't make the book bad by any means, but every time I read a different description I smiled.  I'm not sure it's really necessary to use the color wheel when describing our characters.

On to the book.  Sweet Enemy, by Heather Snow, is Ms. Snow's debut effort and overall, it was a pretty good book with just a few minor hiccups.  And, they are my hiccups - not every reader out there has the same hiccup-ery capacity. We have a couple of interesting main characters in this book.  Liliana, a smart heroine - and, I do mean smart, not a fake smart heroine as oftentimes crop up among the pages.  This one is quite intelligent; in fact, sometimes I felt as if I were back in school.  She is proficient in chemistry, which would be a mighty big stumbling block for a woman in the time period she was situated in.  However, I enjoyed her intelligence. I also found her to be pretty humorous and able to take care of herself.  I loved how she irritated the hero, Geoffrey, and at the same time made him a better man.  And, I found another use for sugar.

Then we have our hero, the Alan Alda of his day, Geoffrey.  He was almost too good to be true, with saving the world and such, and I nearly raised my eyebrows, but didn't.  I also enjoyed Geoffrey's acceptance of Liliana's intelligence and abilities. When these two get together, they bicker, they try to outdo each other, they challenge each other.  Then that protagonist/antagonist relationship slowly blossoms into friendship.  Ms. Snow did a great job showing people liking, then falling in love. 

There is also a nice mystery to be solved and a villain to be found.  Now, because I've read a bazillion romance books, I was able to spot the villain right away, so there was no surprise there.  However, the mystery caused the Trust monster to rear its ugly head and that is where I had a minor problem. 

Spoilers.  Now, we learn that Liliana believes Geoffrey to have somehow been involved with her father's death.  Or, someone in his family was involved.  Which is the reason she's at his house party, to discover who the murderer is/was...so, it is understandable that she would not tell him the reason for her being there.  Of course, as time passes and these two become closer, we the readers know there is going to be a problem when Geoffrey finds out the "real" reason she's there.  And, do you know why it will be a problem?  Because of his horrible, deceitful, lying, two-timing, not to be trusted mother.  So, when Geoffrey finds out about Liliana's secret, he reacts.  And, he reacts in a way that a lot of romance heroes do...he cannot - will not trust Liliana. 

I thought about this issue after I finished this book.  So, thank you Ms. Snow for that.  Now, I liked Geoffrey a lot. He was mature, caring and intelligent.  He liked Liliana.  He talked to Liliana.  He got to know her and when she was finally honest with him, because he was a more mature hero, I was expecting him to be maybe a little hurt but I was hoping he'd be more accepting of what she had done.  And, because he was the Alan Alda of his time, he should have been able to forgive and not gone off on a "cannot trust you" tangent.  His reaction didn't seem in character to me.

But in the end, even with the trust hiccup, this was a fun read and a great beginning for author Heather Snow.  I will be looking forward to the next book that Ms. Snow publishes.  Job well done!

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Warm to hot

Friday

On my Radar Late March/Early April 2012

February 24, 2012

Jennifer Ashley
The Duke's Perfect Wife
Highland Pleasure series

Release date: April 3, 2012
9780425247105



Tessa Dare
A Week to Be Wicked
Spindle Cove series

Release date: March 27, 2012
9780062049872



Tracey Devlyn, debut
A Lady's Revenge
Wicked as They Come series

Release date: April 1, 2012
9781402258220



Meredith Duran
At Your Pleasure

Release date: March 27, 2012
9781451606959




Suzanne Enoch
Taming an Impossible Rogue
Scandalous Brides series

Release date: March 27, 2012
9780312534523



Julia London
The Seduction of Lady X
Secrets of Hadley Green series

Release date: March 27, 2012
9781439175477



Kasey Michaels
Much Ado About Rogues
Blackthorn Brothers series

Release date: March 20, 2012
9780373776399



Sophia Nash
The Art of Duke Hunting
The Royal Entourage series

Release date: March 27, 2012
9780062022332



Miranda Neville
Confessions from an Arranged Marriage
Burgundy Club series

Release date: March 27, 2012
9780062023056



Maggie Robinson
Master of Sin
Courtesan Court series

Release date: April 4, 2012
9780758251053



Tracy Anne Warren
The Princess and the Peer
Princess Brides series

Release date: April 3, 2012
9780451236340




 The Title Caught My Eyes

Kieran Shields
The Truth of All Things

Release date: March 27, 2012
9780307720276





For a more complete list of Upcoming releases see Hey Delia!

Thursday

Not Wicked Enough by Carolyn Jewel

February 23, 2012
Me and my shadow,
Not a soul to tell our troubles to . . .

 http://www.carolynjewel.com/index.php

We have spoilers ahead.
Well, I had to digest this one before I jotted down my thoughts.  I love Carolyn Jewel and I've missed her since she switched to paranormal.  And then, hot-diggity, I read that she was working on a historical series, so I waited with baited breath.  Not Wicked Enough arrived on my doorstep and I gleefully plunged into it.  Let me tell you, I was entranced by her writing from the very first, even found a new favorite sentence/paragraph.  So, before I even start telling you what I thought of the book overall, let me meander a bit about the great opening of this book.

The part I love involves a shadow and the quirky imagination of the heroine, Lily Wellstone.  Lily was one of the best heroines I've read in a long time.  She arrives at our hero's estate in the wee hours of the morning in the pouring rain.  She and the hero are in the entry way and because they are using lanterns for light, an elongated shadow of our heroine is being cast upon the floor and our hero is standing on this shadow.  In her imagination she decides that she can not move as long as he's standing on her shadow.  I loved this side of her.  What a whimsical character.  Here's one of those moments.

"He didn’t react right away, and she had the impression he was deciding whether she had amused him or convinced him she was a fool. Perhaps a bit of both. Well. She was cold and wet. His boot yet pinned her shadow to the floor, so she remained where she was. Behind him, she caught a glimpse of a stone staircase that quickly narrowed and turned as it spiraled toward the first floor and disappeared into darkness."

So, I curled up to read a lovely, well-written romance with two remarkable, above-average Romanceland characters.  At least Lily was different; Mountjoy (hero) may have been a more typical hero, that doesn't mean I didn't like him, it just means Lily was the one that stole the show.  From the beginning, this couple was a mismatch.  She's perfect, beautiful, loves people, is a social butterfly and wants people to be happy.  Mountjoy is really rough around the edges, doesn't like to be around people, and has rather a apathetic attitude.  When these two meet, the sparks just fly off the pages of Not Wicked Enough.

Something I liked about Lily: she wasn't a virgin and she had never been married; however, she had been engaged and seemed to have indulged in some pretty hot sex with her fiance.  The fiance is dead by the way.  So, when she meets Mountjoy, she doesn't hesitate to act upon the sensual chemistry steaming from them.  It just happens and there didn't seem to be any guilty consciences floating around afterward.  The sex in this book is hot!

There are also some secondary characters, and although they are not written as strongly as the main two, they add to the story.  So, things go on: we are at a house party, we have a treasure hunt, we have sex, illicit encounters.  He proposes, she turns him down, they have sex, he proposes, she turns him down, they have sex, her cousin proposes, she thinks about it, they go for a walk, they talk, Mountjoy lets her think about it, they have sex, they have a treasure hunt, they go for a walk, they talk, she is suspicious of her cousin, Mountjoy's brother runs off with the neighbors daughter, Lily talks about her awful father, she turns her cousin down, the cousin tells her why he's there, Mountjoy proposes, they have sex, he throws pebbles at her window, she accepts.  The end.  And all of that was done without any angst, drama, poor me poor me, trauma or I'm not worthy.  So, when I closed the book I sat there wondering why I felt let down.  Should I read it over again?  No, I have too many others calling my name.  So, what went wrong?  I loved the characters - loved the wit, dialog, strong fanciful heroine, manly rough gruff hero.  What happened from the foot in the shadow to the HEA?  I was troubled, so I conferred with a fellow romance traveler who was just hanging around.  After much talk and rambling around it became apparent to me that there was no conflict, no roadblock...nothing that either one of the two main characters seemed to be concerned about or couldn't overcome.  There was just no struggle, and shouldn't there be?

Another thing that bothered me was I never understood why she couldn't marry him. She didn't moon over her dead fiance; in fact it would seem to me if one was really happy with one's first love (as she was), one would be more than ready to try again.

Her father could have been a roadblock, but no, nothing ever happened there.  Her cousin could have been, but no.

So, what started out so promising, ended with a slight feeling of something missing.  Which leads me to my quandary...It was great having a Carolyn Jewel book in my hands!  Not Wicked Enough had some wonderful characters in it, some wonderful writing and I would recommend it for that reason. It's just in the end even though I liked the characters, I felt a certain disconnect with their HEA.

PS:  Notice I didn't say anything about the dress on the front cover, or the "howdy big fella, is that a cucumber in your pocket or are you just happy to see me" pose.

Time/Place:  Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Friday

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries

February 17, 2012

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
I'm gonna eat some worms!
Long, slippy, slimy ones,
Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms!


http://www.sabrinajeffries.com/
I have a question.  When authors gather at the watering hole, do they all agree on what themes they are going to write about? You 25 authors write about virgin widows, you 25 write about women disguised as men and you 25 write about the I'm-not-good-enough-for-you syndrome.  And, then let's not stagger them throughout the year, but publish them in the same month. Then let's make sure SidneyKay buys all of the ones with the same framework.  I'm sure that doesn't happen. They probably don't gather at a watering hole and they probably scratch their heads and ask, SidneyKay who, but golly-gosh, gee willikers, we have another not good enough character but this time it's the hero.  Having just read a "Poor Me" book, maybe I should have put this one aside after the first couple of "I'm not worthy's" started to pop up.  I need to jot that down - when similarities appear, set aside book til later.  And to the peanut gallery, I would not be setting aside all of my books.

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries is the last in the series of the Hellion's of Halstead Hall.  This one is the story of Celia Sharpe and Jackson Pinter, the Bow Street Runner/detective.  Now, if you have been following the series (and I strongly advise before you read this one, you read the others) you will know that the wily grandmother is forcing her grandchildren to marry in a set amount of time or be faced with disinheritance.  So, that's one plot.  The other plot is the Sharpe siblings parents were murdered when the said siblings were young and this plot has continued through all five books, with hints here and there until the bad guy/girl is caught.  So that's another plot.  Then there is a sort of secondary plot of who is Jackson's father, but that doesn't really take up too much time.  And, of course Celia has to find a husband.  By my count we have four plots and they all have to be wrapped up by the time we read the last chapter, turn out the lights and go to sleep.

When I began A Lady Never Surrenders, I enjoyed the moments Celia and Jackson were together.  Their bantering/bickering was fun and I wish it had gone on a little bit longer. I liked the way Celia could out-shoot most of the men - her so-called suitors.  I loved watching Jackson struggle against the attraction he felt for Celia, I thought his jealous thoughts were pretty funny.  It's always a treat when strong men can't control their feelings.  For once we have a hero who isn't an aristocrat; nope, he's a self-made man.  And, it is here that I have a problem. Most self-made men I've ever been around are pretty confident with themselves, even dare I say it, a little arrogant.  However, Jackson had the "I'm not Worthy" complex - a heap of it.  The "I'm not worthy" did not blend well with the confidence he exhibited in everything else he did.  And after a while, his continual beating himself up became rather annoying. 

By the way, is it just me or has any one else noticed the increase in hairy ballocks?  Is this a new trend?  Are we to be inundated with hairy things flapping behind our heroes' purple-headed Mr. Toads?   Over the years I've become accustomed to the angry red large-veined heads belonging to Mr. Toad, but I don't know if I'm ready to read about my heroes' hairy ballocks.  Thank goodness they are not sweaty.   That would be too much for me to bear.

I digress.  Even though I thought Jackson's boo-hooing was annoying, I did like Celia and Jackson as a couple.  I wish that more time had been spent on the development of their romance.  I was also disappointed with the scooby-doo murder/mystery wrap up of who killed the parents.  It felt rushed and I could almost see someone ripping a mask off, shouting Rit Ras Rer.

Overall, liked the romance part of the book; the mystery, not so much.  This was better than the last one in the series, but not as good as A Hellion in Her Bed.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot

Thursday

Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel by Samantha Grace

February 16, 2012

"You say it's yes, and then it's no;
You say you'll stay, and then you go -
You're undecided now, so what are you gonna do?
 
First you say you do, and then you don't,
And then you say you will, and then you won't;
You're undecided now, so what are you gonna do?
 
Now you want to play, and then it's no,
And when you say you'll stay, that's when you go -
You're undecided now, so what are you gonna do?"

 
http://samanthagraceauthor.com/about.html
I'm always torn when I have a debut author who is promising but I've had to struggle to finish their book. I felt that way about Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel, by Samantha Grace. Should I, shouldn't I, write how I feel about this book? It is all subjective after all, so there are some of you out there who probably won't agree with my thoughts on this story.
 
When the book started, I was amused with the heroine and hero. I thought they had some funny dialogue and their first encounter with each other was a hoot. However, it didn't take me long to become really irritated with our heroine, Lana. And, by the way, the name Lana reminded me of Superman, not someone from the 1800's. I digress. Lana. I wanted nothing more than to reach inside those pages and squeeze that alabaster neck. Talk about an inferiority complex! OMG! She's not pretty enough - she's got horrible freckles - she's been hurt in the past - no one will ever love her - she cannot trust any man, especially if they are rakes - she believes the lies of the villain, for no particular reason - she wants a secret betrothal - she is a virgin - no she's not - he doesn't love me - he'll never be faithful - she can't be loved, and did I mention: She Has Freckles!  She sends the hero after his mistress because she doesn't want that woman to feel bad and then she has conflicting feelings about whether she can trust the hero - whether he's in bed with the woman she sent him chasing after. Up and down, up and down, I was just very confused over who Lana was.  Lana was just too much of a yes/no whiny- downtrodden- poor- me-jumping-to-the-wrong-conclusion heroine for my taste.
 
Andrew could have been a wonderful hero, if only Lana had been a better heroine. There is only one time I sighed...when he asked a woman friend to flirt with him so he could see if Lana became jealous.  Bet you can guess if she was or not.  That was a teeth-grinding moment; I don't like games played between couples in real life, and I most certainly don't want my fake romance people to play silly juvenile games either!
 
By the end of the story, I really had strong doubts as to whether these two people could ever have a HEA...there was just too much distrust from Lana to make me believe this could ever happen.
 
So, I was disappointed in this debut book. I wanted the characters in the book to be more fleshed out and less silly.  I didn't understand some of the background story with the parents; that had an unfinished feel about it. I will read the second in the series, just to see how the author grows and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. 

And, a special thanks to Les Brown and His Band of Renown
Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot

An Affair with Mr. Kennedy by Jillian Stone

February 9, 2012
The guy with the kaleidoscope eyes
http://www.gjillianstone.com/
 
Can’t our heroes have just regular, plain ol’ blue eyes? The one in this book has a variety of blues, which I have included for your edification, even though there is more than one shade of these three colors. So, Zak, our hero, depending on what he’s doing has changeable eyes. They can be Cerulean or Sapphire or Prussian blue.  Don’t know which shade of Cerulean, Sapphire, or Prussian they be, but he’s a real colorful guy. And, in all cases, they are penetrating.

And, by the way, does anyone else think the female model on the front cover bears a striking resemblance to Liv Tyler?  My daughter doesn't see it.

Now to the book. An Affair with Mr. Kennedy is the debut novel of Jillian Stone and the beginning of the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. Even though the changing blue eyes struck me as a tad bit absurd, it dawned on me that the handsome hero’s orbs were being seen through the eyes of the heroine, who just happens to be an artist. So, maybe she would say Cerulean. I’m digressing. 

An Affair with Mr. Kennedy steps into a different time period than my usual reads, and that’s refreshing. We wander into the Victorian era around the time of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Contrary to what a few people believe when one says Victorian time, this time period was seeped in dark, underground, perverse shenanigans; it’s just there was a pretty strait-laced fa├žade in place. Ms. Stone has done her research. There was a lot of real history jam-packed in this book: the Impressionist art movement, suffrage effort, Irish home rule, a group called the Fenian Brotherhood. So much going on and it was all beautifully blended with the fake history. There were times when the stuff that was going on in the background overshadowed the romance of the book.

Let’s turn to the romance in the book. Even though I would have to say this is more of a suspense romance than a pure romance, yes, my little petunia’s we do have a romance couple. There is Cassie, our budding artist, whose upbringing has been very progressive (to say the least). Her mother could have been one of the Pankhurst women; she even goes so far as to encourage her daughter into taking a lover and purchasing some condoms for her. Now, Cassie happens to be looking for a place to live on her own.  She wants to be free, free and a famous artist.  Now, because all free famous artists have lovers, she is on the lookout for one too. 

Enter Zeno “Zak” Kennedy, her landlord, who also happens to be one of Scotland Yard’s smartest, solve-any-crime, able to leap tall buildings (along with his giant sidekick Timothy Toad), detective. The moment Cassie and Zak see each other the sparks fly and it doesn’t take long before this couple is bouncing all over the place.

There are of course a number of villains and conspiracies and chases and attempted kidnapings and bombs. There were moments of hair-raising suspense as Zak races to catch the bad guys before they can blow up the Queen – which by the way was one of my favorite parts of the book. The race was a well written nail-biter.

Now, mixed in with all this suspense and nail-biting was a l-o-t of sex. Almost too much sex and I confess I did do some skipping of scenes. The secondary characters could have been very interesting - the mother, brother, father, housekeeper, future heroes and villains - but at times they seemed to be flat. I also had a slight problem how abruptly one scene ended and the next began. I became used to it after a while, but it did take away from my overall enjoyment of the story. There were a couple of scenes I could have done without: the discussion with the maid over the humongous size of Zak’s Mr. Toad was a little icky, and, the questioning of Zak’s dead ex-mistress-no-she’s alive prisoner reminded me a little of Stella Cameron’s bad women who try to seduce the hero. Didn’t like it, didn’t think it was needed to make the story move along.

Overall, I liked this book and thought it was a good beginning to a series of Scotland Yard suspense-romance stories. However, I will say that the best part of the book was the suspense, and the romance was the weak part (even with all the sex).

Time/Place: Victorian England/France
Sensuality Rating: Burning

The Other Guy's Bride by Connie Brockway

February 3, 2012
A rollicking desert sand adventure that has everything but the mummy!
http://www.conniebrockway.com/

In 1997, Connie Brockway wrote one of her best books, As You Desire. Now, after 14 or so years, she has finally written a sequel: The Other Guy's Bride, which is the story of Harry and Desdemona's daughter Genisse. You do not have to have read the original to follow this story, because this is a very much stand-alone book, even if there are returning characters.

This is a charming, fun story and it plays best in the parts when Genisse and our hero Jim/James are cavorting through the desert in search of a lost tomb/city/archeological wonder. Or at least Geniesse is searching; Jim, on the other hand, is clueless as to her purpose in traveling through the hot sands. You see, he thinks she is somebody else: the fiancee of the stodgy commander of the fort. And he has been sent to bring the commander's fiancee back. Now, there is a good reason Jim thinks this is the commander's fiancee - Geniesse told him she was. Yes, this is a disguise romance...but in the hands of Connie Brockway it is quite entertaining.

This story reminded me of the movies The Mummy, Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark, with maybe some Tracy/Hepburn/Gary Grant/Rosalind Russell snappy dialog thrown in just for fun. The Other Guy's Bride is a very visual story with no cardboard characters in sight.

I especially loved Genisse. She was a strong, intelligent woman, dare I say spunky. She was also a tad bit accident prone, which is why she decides she wants to find the lost city/tomb of Zerzura. She has one of those failings that a number of us have: she doesn't see herself as she really is. She has a feeling of not fitting in with her family, of not being good enough and this search for the missing Zerzura will make her of worth to her family. Or at least that's what she thinks. There was some interesting writing from Ms. Brockway as Genisse finally discovers who she really is and what she really wants. Quite nice.

Then we have our hero, Jim, who is also in disguise. Although, I didn't buy his disguise excuse as much as I did Genisse's. I liked Jim best when he was befuddled by our heroine. The banter between these two had me smiling throughout most of the book. There is also a wonderful "watch the woman melt" moment when he tells Genisse why he wants her to say his name. "Because when you say my name, it would touch your lips...like a kiss." Great line. Think I'll make my husband memorize it.

This would have been an extraordinary adventure, if the couple had not turned into standard Romanceland "you must marry me, I have taken your innocence, no, I cannot marry you, you have not said the magic words" couple. Up to the point of the taking of the magical woo-woo bud, this story was great. It was colorful, full of great scenes, fun dialogue, sand storms, camels, bandits, accidents, scorpions, rescues...the momentum of the story was so exciting. And then the magical woo-woo bud is broken and we get bogged down in Romanceland mundane love problems.

In the end, it was great to have another historical by Connie Brockway. The story was a fun read and if the momentum had not been interrupted this would have been one of the best. However, I did enjoy the story, loved the main characters, loved the desert adventure and am looking forward to more historicals from Ms. Brockway.

My special thanks to Oded Fehr for making The Mummy memorable!

Time/Place: Edwardian...Egypt
Sensuality Rating: Warm/Hot